I welcome the return of summer activities as our world recovers from a pandemic and its ensuing closures, delays and absence of fun (ok that last part is purely my opinion). Along with live music and county fair French fries, Ohio will have a new biennial budget (HB 110) in place.
The budget conference committee worked to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. Among hundreds of policy items is student aid for CDL training. The Ohio House proposed a $5 million fund dedicated to scholarships and low interest loans for students seeking CDLs. The Ohio Senate version of HB 110 removed this funding not realizing that Ohio would not have dedicated funding for this purpose. We needed to make our case.
The need for more drivers is dire in our industry as well as many others who rely on drivers to get products to customers. The American Trucking Association estimates that our nation will need 1.1 million additional Class A CDL drivers over the next ten years. And the pandemic only underscored the need for drivers as people ordered everything from groceries to lumber expecting home delivery. This in conjunction with panic buying at retail outlets strained our transportation infrastructure to the brink of collapse. Recovery from this is ongoing and the future of e-commerce leaped a decade during the pandemic.
With such a critical need, our industry has worked alongside the Ohio Trucking Association and other Ohio employers supporting several initiatives to help with the shortage. Everything from scholarships for students to tax credits for employers will help.
On the federal level, OhioBev is advocating for the DRIVE SAFE Act (H.R. 1745 / S. 659) which will get younger drivers into the employment pipeline sooner with increased education, safety testing and training. We also asked our Ohio delegation to support creation of a USDOT pilot program to increase truck GVW from 80,000 lbs. to 91,000 lbs. for six axle trucks traveling interstate highways. Fewer trucks hauling more with save CO2 and help with highway congestion. After 30 years, truck design has evolved and so should policy on truck weights.
So how are we doing? Collective efforts were rewarded this week as the state budget conference committee restored the CDL student aid. The House and Senate both adopted the conference report and sent the biennial budget to Governor DeWine for his signature.
This legislative victory is one part of the multi-faceted approach to addressing CDL driver shortages. We are grateful that our state legislators were listening. We have a long road ahead and will use every avenue available to address this critical need.